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Saturday, March 25, 2023

How is the president of the United States elected?

Pamela Cruz. Peninsula 360 Press.

With only a few hours left to decide who will be the president of the United States for the next four years, the votes are still coming in, and today those who were unable to vote in person will be able to do so today.

While it is true that, so far, more than 100 million Americans have voted, thousands are still turning out and lining up to cast their ballots to decide whether Republican Donald J. Trump stays in the White House for four more years, or Democrat Joe Biden becomes the 46th President of the United States.

But how is the president elected in the U.S.?

Many might think that the candidate with the highest number of votes from the electors is the winner, but in the United States this is not the case. The country has an indirect presidential election system, which means that it is not the popular vote that defines the winner, but by an Electoral College made up of 538 electors.

Each state has as many "electors" as members of Congress (House of Representatives and Senate), which can vary, but there are at least three per state.

The "electors or delegates", coming from all states plus Washington DC, are citizens elected by the political parties, the number of electors for each state is proportional to its population, and once the popular vote is cast, they choose a candidate.

In 48 states and Washington D.C., the candidate with the highest number of citizen votes gets all the electoral votes. Maine and Nebraska allocate their electors using a proportional system.

A candidate needs the vote of at least 270 electors (one more than half of the total) to win the presidential election.

In most cases, it is likely to project a possible winner on election night itself, when the popular citizen vote tally is completed. However, the Electoral College vote, which officially determines the winner, takes place in mid-December, when electors gather in their states.

It should be noted that it is possible to win the Electoral College vote but lose the popular vote, proof of which is that, to date, five presidents have won the U.S. presidency despite failing to overcome the popular votes of their challengers: George W. Bush, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, John Q. Adams and Donald J. Trump.

While unlikely, what happens if no presidential candidate gets 270 electoral votes?

If this happens, the presidential election leaves the Electoral College process and passes to Congress. Thus, the House of Representatives chooses the president from among the three candidates who received the most electoral votes. Each state delegation has one vote and it is up to the states to determine how to vote, but a candidate must receive at least 26 votes (a majority of the states) to be elected.

For its part, the Senate elects the vice president from among the two candidates for the office with the most electoral votes. Each senator casts one vote, and a candidate must receive at least 51 votes (a majority of senators) to win.

If the House of Representatives fails to elect a president before Inauguration Day, the vice president-elect acts as acting president until the dispute is resolved.

And, can electoral votes be challenged when Congress counts the votes in January?

Under federal law, an objection to a state's electoral votes may be submitted to the President of the Senate during the January congressional electoral vote count. The objection must be in writing and signed by at least one senator and one member of the House of Representatives.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives debate the objection separately. The debate is limited to two hours, and after the discussion, both the Senate and the House of Representatives reconvene and both must agree to reject the votes.

Pamela Cruz
Pamela Cruz
Editor-in-Chief of Peninsula 360 Press. A communicologist by profession, but a journalist and writer by conviction, with more than 10 years of media experience. Specialized in medical and scientific journalism at Harvard and winner of the International Visitors Leadership Program scholarship from the U.S. government.


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